Archive for April, 2011

Tamar, the Woman Caught in Adultery

What did Jesus write in the sand, the day they brought a woman caught in adultery to him?

Did he write the names Judah and Tamar?

Was the woman a supposed widow, retching with morning sickness, or just beginning to “show?”

“Let him who is without sin cast the first stone”.

Did they remember Judah’s words- “She is more righteous than I.”?


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Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah

And what a story it is, sitting cozily in Genesis 34.

Again, it is an account told without commentary.

Women’s rights campaigners will not be happy.  Dinah, the rape victim has no voice at all.  Was she just at the wrong place at the wrong time? Did her “friends” set her up?  Was she perhaps successfully wooed by the Hivite chief’s popular and persuasive son? What happened to her afterward?  How did she feel about the carnage carried out on her behalf? What did she say to her former girlfriends, now captives and slaves to her family? We are given no hint.

And her Father, Jacob, now Israel.  He doesn’t precisely step up to the plate to his only daughter’s defense.  He dumps the responsibility on her brothers.  After the fact, and in his death-bed curse, he castigates Simeon and Levi for their violence, but where was his leadership at the time.  Why didn’t he at least say, “No”?

And then there is the be-smitten Shechem.  Possession by rape, and then protestations of love. “Get me this woman for my wife.” “No bride-price is too high.”

And his pitch to the greedy towns folks- “Just be circumcised, and all that is theirs will be ours as we absorb them into our culture.”  “Why not?” Religious significance – nope, a thought for the God of the Hebrews – nope, just profit motive.

And of course we have, the Knights-in-Tarnished Armor- Dinah’s brothers,  proving for sure that the most effective lie is one strengthened by a healthy truth.  But how dare they use the sign of their covenant with God to work an unholy scheme?

And then there is the outcome.  The Hivite men lie dead. Their wives, children and all they have fall to the Hebrews- and in fact the two groups get merged, but not as the Hivites envisioned. Dinah is restored to the bosom of her family.

In the final act Jacob cleans out all the foreign idols, including, presumably, the new ones acquired at Shechem. He takes his family  back to the House of God, and the true worship, and is given divine protection against attack as he moves his people out. . The covenant promises are renewed.

Should our sister be treated as a prostitute?  Apparently not.

It does make the eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth of the Mosaic Law, seem most restrained and reasonable, in its meting out of just desserts, though.

Do I have a handle on this story?  I’m looking for one. After all, all scripture is inspired by God and is profitable . . .

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Return to your God

So what was Esau thinking when he went out with the men of his house- four hundred strong, to meet his twin? Was it score settling time, as Jacob feared?  Were they mounted on fast raiding camels, Lawrence of Arabia style?

They meet, embrace, weep.  Jacob eats humble pie, “My Lord, your servant,” “I see your face as the face of God.”  His gift in sheep, and goats, camels, cattle, and donkeys, is over the top. Esau is gracious, only accepting the gift after Jacob insists, offering to lead the way, or provide escorts.

Still, the bottom line remains. Esau goes south to Seir, and Jacob heads north-east to Succoth.

Bloodshed is averted, but a real home-coming, doesn’t happen.

We are left wondering about the rights and wrongs of the relationship because the writer of Genesis limits himself to recording, he doesn’t offer commentary.

Years later two of the Old Testament prophets do weigh in on the issue.


I have loved you, says the Lord. But you say, “How have you loved us?” Is not Esau Jacob’s brother? says the Lord. Yet I have loved Jacob  but I have hated Esau;(NIV)


 The LORD has a charge to bring against Judah;
he will punish Jacob  according to his ways
and repay him according to his deeds.
In the womb he grasped his brother’s heel;
as a man he struggled with God.
He struggled with the angel and overcame him;
he wept and begged for his favor.
He found him at Bethel
and talked with him there—
the LORD God Almighty,
the LORD is his name of renown!

But you must return to your God;
maintain love and justice,
and wait for your God always. (NIV)

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Unless you Bless Me

There are passages of scripture that remain obscure until we have walked through similar life experiences.  Some, we shrink back from, because the price tag is high.

I’ve been thinking of Jacob, now renamed Israel, limping away from the ford of Jabbok with the light of the morning sun on his face.

Surely the night before was one of the darkest of his life. After twenty years of running and scheming he had run out of dodges. His past had caught up with him.

Finally, he sent everyone and everything else ahead, and spent the night alone at the Camp of God.

I think of David’s cry to God,

“Who have I in heaven, and what is there on earth to take pleasure in, other than you?”

So Jacob says, to the one he has wrestled with all night, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

It is only later, in the clear light of day, that he gulps and says somewhat shakily- I have seen the face of God and been delivered.  Limping, but alive, and blessed.

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Psalms are Poetry

The last few mornings I’ve been reading Psalms, with nine English Versions up on the computer screen. I’ve been reading and thinking about  bringing them into the Nkonya language.

It’s a particular challenge, because the Psalms are art and poetry as well as message.

After only a handful of days I’m still working on plotting the translations as to their various characteristics. However I do have some initial favourites and least favourites.  I have discovered that while I want a psalm to be accurate I also want it to touch me with it’s beauty. I want elegance of line and cadence. I want my emotions engaged.

The New Century Version , which I’ve often consulted when translating narrative passages goes to the bottom of the list here.  It has basically jettisoned any attempt at the poetical in it’s dedication to the simple and straightforward.  The Today’s English Version also suffers in that direction.

A number of translations cluster at mid-range.  The New American Standard Version does better than one would expect. Hebrew is a language of heart and passion. If you keep close to the original text much of that emotion actually spills over. In poetry it doesn’t matter so much if the wording is a little unusual. The Revised English Version also gets a nod from me for its creative turn of mind. It is quite flavourful.

The two translations that most consistently wax lyrical are the New Living Translation and the New International Version. They are quite different in style. The New Living has a full rich flavour.  If it were a cupcake it would be generously iced.

The New International opts for a fairly spare rendering. However it is characterized by lovely turns of phrase that wear well and satisfy.  It’s translation of Psalm 65:8, for instance, is nicely evocative.

“Where morning dawns and evening fades
you call forth songs of joy.”

This particular verse, has called forth a rich spectrum of renderings in English.  Looking at it in a variety of translations highlights many of the issues involved. (Consider that homework- perhaps a future blog.)

Here’s a bit more from Psalm 65, in the NIV, my current favourite.

It’s a nice passage to read as winter passes out.

You care for the land and water it. . .
You drench its furrows
and level its ridges;
you soften it with showers
and bless its crops.

You crown the year with your bounty,
and your carts overflow with abundance.
The grasslands of the desert overflow;
the hills are clothed with gladness.
The meadows are covered with flocks
and the valleys are mantled with grain;
they shout for joy and sing.

“Drench” is such a nice verb-I have this urge to run out and wriggle my toes in moist loam. I also love the image of fields “mantled with grain.”  I can see the heavy richness of August wheat fields around Red Deer.

There are 150 Psalms to bring into Nkonya and I have yet to work on even one.  Doubtless my initial impressions will be modified many times. I’m looking forward to the exercise though.

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Our daily bread

After I finished the last post on Jacob, I was sitting quietly, just to listen, and the word that immediately popped into my mind was, “Give us this day our daily bread.”

Yes, holding our Father’s name holy, and asking for his kingdom to come, and his will to be accomplished, come first in the Lord’s Prayer,

But then, there it is, the daily necessity of food for the body has it’s own plank in the prayer of prayers.

Fear not little flock, our Father knows we need these things and it is meet, right and our bounden duty, to ask them from his hand.

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First steps

God said,

I will give you and your descendants the land on which you are lying. . .

All peoples on earth will be blessed through you and your offspring.

I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land.

I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” (NIV)

The promise of God is iron clad, comprehensive, reaching down through generations, and out to all the peoples of the earth.

Jacob responded,

“If God will be with me and will watch over me on this journey I am taking and will give me food to eat and clothes to wear so that I return safely to my father’s house,

then the LORD will be my God and  this stone that I have set up as a pillar will be God’s house, and of all that you give me I will give you a tenth.” (NIV)

Jacob’s build has a limited scope, reaching only to his immediate dilemma – this journey, and limited concerns – food, clothes and a safe return.   It also includes a payback.

You will be my God, I will establish this place as a house for you, and tithe ten percent.

God, in all his graciousness, accepts that first response.

As Robyn’s mother  says,

“If an infant can take five consecutive steps alone, they’re walking.”

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